Evernote employees will be able to read notes only if users allow it

Evernote has recently announced that, starting on January 23, 2017, Evernote users’ unencrypted notes will be accessible to some Evernote employees.

Evernote privacy

The change to the service’s privacy policy was announced on Tuesday, and the explanation for this particular change was as follows:

“This is primarily to make sure that our machine learning technologies are working correctly, in order to surface the most relevant content and features to you. While our computer systems do a pretty good job, sometimes a limited amount of human review is simply unavoidable in order to make sure everything is working exactly as it should.”

Evernote said that this limited number of employees “are subject to background checks and receive specific security and privacy training at least annually to ensure they are up to date on the latest privacy and security requirements and standards.”

Naturally, the announcement spurred some users to publicly announce their intention of quitting the service.

The company has pointed out that Evernote Business account admins can choose to opt out of machine learning for the business, but their notes will still be accessible to Evernote employees for other purposes (e.g. law enforcement requests).

UPDATE: The negative reaction of users must have been very strong for Evernote to partially backtrack on the proposed change.

The company said that they will be implementing machine learning learning technologies, but “no employees will be reading note content as part of this process unless users opt in.

“We announced a change to our privacy policy that made it seem like we didn’t care about the privacy of our customers or their notes. This was not our intent, and our customers let us know that we messed up, in no uncertain terms. We heard them, and we’re taking immediate action to fix it,” said Evernote CEO Chris O’Neill.

“We are excited about what we can offer Evernote customers thanks to the use of machine learning, but we must ask for permission, not assume we have it. We’re sorry we disappointed our customers, and we are reviewing our entire privacy policy because of this.”

Users who don’t want their notes to be read by anyone at Evernote (and anyone in general) would do well to encrypt the content before saving the note – and to do so with an encryption scheme that’s not dependent of Evernote.